|"The Earth King and the Council of Five do not trust the Dai Li. They imprisoned your leader, Long Feng. Soon they will turn on all of you and eliminate you. Seizing power today is a matter of life and death. This coup must be swift and decisive. The Earth King and each of the five generals must be taken out simultaneously. Long Feng has placed you in my command while we overthrow the government."|
|— Azula to the Dai Li.|
The Coup of Ba Sing Se, also known as the Fall of the Earth Kingdom or the Fall of Ba Sing Se, was an event which took place in the spring of 100 AG. Princess Azula of the Fire Nation and her allies, Mai and Ty Lee, disguised themselves as Kyoshi Warriors, infiltrated the Earth Kingdom capital city of Ba Sing Se, took control of the Dai Li, and orchestrated a coup of the 52nd Earth King. Because Ba Sing Se was the last great Earth Kingdom stronghold left in the world, the coup was a major defeat for the enemies of the Fire Nation, and it placed both Ba Sing Se and the entire Earth Kingdom under the Fire Lord's control. The final major military operation of the Fire Nation in the Earth Kingdom prior to the coming of Sozin's Comet a few months later, the event also prompted Azula's brother, Prince Zuko, to fight for and return to the Fire Nation.
Team Avatar decided to journey to Ba Sing Se after they navigated their way out of the Si Wong Desert. Sokka wished to tell the Earth King of an impending solar eclipse during which the firebenders would lose their bending, a date that was discovered during Team Avatar's visit to Wan Shi Tong's Library. Additionally, the team wished to locate Appa who had been stolen and transported to Ba Sing Se.
The group journeyed to Ba Sing Se by way of a deadly route known as the Serpent's Pass, and foiled the Fire Nation's attempt to invade the city. Upon entering the city, the team marveled at its splendor and sheer magnificence; however, they soon learned of turmoil brewing within its walls. Long Feng, the Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se, was using his Dai Li agents to keep knowledge of the War suppressed and was controlling the city by manipulating the Earth King.
Zuko and Iroh had also entered Ba Sing Se as unnoticed refugees where Iroh quickly gained a reputation as the "best tea-maker in Ba Sing Se. Jet, however, suspected that they were firebenders and, after several unsuccessful attempts to expose their abilities, openly declared his suspicions at the Pao Family Tea House where Iroh and Zuko worked. Jet engaged Zuko in a sword duel, but was captured and brainwashed by the Dai Li.
Team Avatar made a sustained effort to find Appa. While the group was putting up flyers around the city, they discovered a brainwashed Jet and later two members of the Freedom Fighters. After successfully restoring Jet's memory and receiving vital information on the Dai Li, the group infiltrated the agency's secret base in an attempt to rescue Appa. However, they failed to locate him and in an ensuing battle, Jet was killed by Long Feng. Meanwhile, after harsh words from Iroh, Zuko freed Appa from his prison beneath Lake Laogai. Appa flew out and immediately rescued Team Avatar from the Dai Li before reuniting with Aang.
The Avatar eventually confronted the Earth King, successfully proving to him both that the Earth Kingdom was at war, and that Long Feng was corrupt. Long Feng was imprisoned, pending trial for crimes against the Earth Kingdom, but was soon satisfied that the Dai Li were still loyal to him.
Princess Azula, alongside her friends Mai and Ty Lee, was tracking the Avatar using a fur trail Appa left behind. However, instead of finding Aang, she found the Kyoshi Warriors, who were taking care of Appa. Declaring that any friend of the Avatar was an enemy of theirs, Azula and her friends successfully attacked and captured the warriors, sending them back to a Fire Nation prison. After making a plan to infiltrate Ba Sing Se, Azula and her friends donned their uniform.
Team Avatar, meanwhile, had just received various pieces of good news and had split up temporarily, mostly to pursue personal goals. Two members had even left Ba Sing Se. Azula and her friends were thus able to penetrate the city without coming under the scrutiny of Aang and his friends, which would have surely exposed them. Instead, Azula was welcomed warmly by an unsuspecting Earth King.
Having successfully infiltrated Ba Sing Se without meeting her most obvious obstacle, Azula immediately set to work on a plan for a coup knowing that the Dai Li were listening to the three's conversations. When arrested by the Dai Li, Long Feng spoke to her from inside his prison cell and the two agreed on a plan to overthrow the Earth King and the Council of Five by temporarily handing control of the Dai Li to the Fire Nation Princess. Azula agreed to this with plans of betrayal forming in her head.
An immediate threat to Azula's planned coup was Katara, who had direct access to the Council of Five and the Earth King and could inform them of threats. Katara was quickly eliminated, however, because she did not realize who they actually were at first sight and blurted out that Zuko and Iroh were in Ba Sing Se. Ty Lee quickly blocked her chi and Katara was thrown into the Crystal Catacombs of Old Ba Sing Se.
Now with the knowledge that her uncle and brother were in the city, Azula attempted to remove them as threats. She lured them to the Royal Palace by telling them through a letter that the Earth King had asked them to serve tea to him. Although partially successful, Azula failed to capture her uncle who escaped after breathing fire against the Dai Li agents to buy time. She did, however, capture Zuko, and the Dai Li threw him into the catacombs.
Aang and his friends, meanwhile, later returned to Ba Sing Se because Aang had a vision that Katara was in danger. Though the Earth King assured them nothing was wrong, the team's fears were realized when they returned to see that their home was empty. Iroh arrived moments later, pleading for their help. After finding out crucial information from a captured Dai Li agent, Aang and Iroh went to rescue Zuko and Katara from the Crystal Catacombs while Sokka and Toph rushed to the Earth King to inform him of the planned coup.
Sokka and Toph were too late despite their efforts. Having already done an "inspirational" speech, Azula had put the plan into action. Sokka and Toph watched as General How was placed under house arrest. Rushing into the throne room, they tried to inform the Earth King, but were also too late, and when Azula threatened the Earth King's life, the two surrendered and were thrown into prison along with the Earth King. This proved only a minor impediment as, having invented metalbending, Toph breached the door to their cell almost as soon as they were in.
A freed Long Feng subsequently appeared in the throne room with his Dai Li agents and ordered the Dai Li to arrest Azula, but to no avail. The princess explained the situation to Long Feng: the Dai Li did not know which of them was more powerful. She guessed that he was lower class by birth, but had managed to get his power through incredible work all his life. After declaring that she had the "divine right to rule", she confidently took the Earth King's throne. Long Feng surrendered, bowing to Azula, admitting how she beat him at his own game. Azula sneered and told him that he was never even a player.
In the catacombs, Katara and Zuko had a deep discussion with unprecedented civility, and Katara offered to use her spirit water to heal Zuko's scar. They were interrupted, however, by their rescuers, Aang and Iroh. Zuko was not impressed by the Avatar's presence, questioning his uncle about it. After Aang and Katara quickly left to help Sokka and Toph, Iroh attempted to convince his nephew to turn to good, but he was interrupted in turn by the arrival of Azula, whose Dai Li agents trapped Iroh in crystal. Azula subsequently told Zuko that he could gain his honor and their father's love by helping him with her final obstacle to a successful coup, the Avatar, before leaving to intercept Aang, leaving Zuko to ponder his options.
Battle in the Crystal Catacombs
Aang and Katara rushed to save Toph and Sokka, but Azula found and attacked them, beginning a short engagement eventually resulting in a fearful, clearly outmatched Azula. Zuko appeared, but instead of fighting Azula, which would certainly have brought about her defeat, he attacked Aang. He and Aang fought evenly, but Azula was outclassed by Katara. The waterbender managed to trap the princess in a water cloak, rendering Azula unable to bend or defend herself. Just as Katara appeared as though she would defeat Azula, Zuko jumped in with fire blades and cut off Katara's attack, releasing Azula. Eventually, in the midst of the battle, the two pairs switched, with Zuko now fighting Katara, both using element whips on opposite sides of a river. Azula and Aang charged at each other, but Azula quickly knocked him to the side.
Back in the palace, Ty Lee was trying to teach Bosco the bear how to walk on his front legs, but she soon was trapped by Toph. She and Sokka took a fighting stance against Mai, who in her nonchalance said to take the bear, and the king reunited happily with his pet.
Underground, Katara fought both Azula and Zuko, but the two firebenders proved too much for her, and one of Azula's attacks knocked Katara into a slab of crystal, leaving her briefly unconscious. Aang managed to get back up from being thrown earlier. He attempted to advance toward Azula and Zuko but was stopped by the Dai Li. They were soon joined by dozens of Dai Li agents. After waking up and realizing the scene before her, Katara rose quickly and assumed the octopus stance. Horribly outmatched, Aang realized there was no other choice and created a crystal shelter, attempting to enter the Avatar State. He nearly succeeded, but as he arose into the air, Azula shot him in the back with lightning, killing him. Iroh suddenly appeared, told Katara to escape, and stated that he would hold the enemy off. Once Katara escaped with Aang's body, Iroh surrendered himself to the Dai Li.
Team Avatar successfully escaped from Ba Sing Se, and Aang was resurrected with Katara's spirit water, as the Earth King sadly stated that "the Earth Kingdom [had] fallen".
Azula's successful coup in Ba Sing Se had significant repercussions for the rest of the Earth Kingdom, which was severely weakened by the loss of their last great stronghold. The Earth Kingdom military in particular was damaged, as their leadership, the Council of Five, was arrested. The victory was so complete that Katara remarked later that "the Fire Nation pretty much won the War when they took Ba Sing Se".
With the fall of the Earth Kingdom, the Water Tribe became the last of the four nations yet to be conquered by the Fire Nation. However, given the losses they suffered during the War and their small army, they alone could not hope to defeat the Fire Nation.
Team Avatar fled to Chameleon Bay and met up with Chief Hakoda to rest and recover. It was during their stay that Kuei decided to travel the world with Bosco, leaving the rest of them behind. Due to incoming Fire Nation forces, the Water Tribe warriors were forced to destroy their campsite to throw the incoming reinforcements off, later capturing a Fire Navy ship and fleeing toward the Fire Nation mainland to prepare for the invasion of the Fire Nation.
The coup also dealt severe damage on a strategic level to the invasion plan. It reduced the number of troops available to carry out the operation. Hakoda, under the direction of his son, was only able to gather a small "rag-tag" force for the invasion.
After Avatar Aang was defeated in the battle, much of the world believed him to be dead and many lost hope that the War could be won. Aang himself remained unconscious for weeks afterward and the lightning blast disabled his ability to enter the powerful Avatar State. The only advantage gained from this defeat was that the Fire Nation would not expect his intervention during the aforementioned invasion.
During the time that Aang was recovering, the Dai Li, using earthbending, brought down the great walls of Ba Sing Se and the Fire Nation invaded soon after, signifying that the Earth Kingdom had fallen.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Book Two: Earth (土)
- 220. "The Crossroads of Destiny"
Book Three: Fire (火)
- 301. "The Awakening" (flashback)